About 20 local middle school students attended a Summer Science Camp hosted by the China Lake Museum Foundation with support from the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Educational Outreach Program at Murray Middle School, Ridgecrest, Calif., July 10-12.
NAWCWD employees and museum foundation volunteers worked together on the third annual science camp to introduce middle school students to new ways of looking at science, technology, engineering, and math.
Marine Corps Capt. Erik Boyce, of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31, kicked off the science camp and talked about the importance of math, science and engineering in his role as an H-1 helicopter pilot, and shared some of the fun things about being a pilot.
“One of the cool things about being a pilot is that I get to go to work in my pajamas,” Boyce joked, tugging on his flight suit.
Boyce also talked about some of his experiences with flying helicopters, jets and gliders.
“You haven’t lived until you’ve been upside down in an airplane with no engine,” he said.
In addition to flying, Boyce explained that nearly three-quarters of his job involves writing reports on how well systems work during flight, why they worked well, and how they could work better. All of that requires a lot of school, he said, seven to be exact, including two years of flight school and another year of test pilot school.
“Really cool things like flying and blowing stuff up requires a lot of learning and a lot of work beforehand,” Boyce said. “The further you get in school the more interesting it gets.”
One of the students asked Boyce if he had ever been shot.
“I have been shot but not shot down,” Boyce said. “That’s one of the important things we do here at China Lake. We figure out how to make things that can get shot up and still take us home.”
The camp was broken up into three morning sessions that focused on the science of flight, rockets, and robots. Students learned the basics of aircraft flight during classroom lectures, and gained hands-on programming experience using calculator robots.
The science of rockets was explained with classroom demonstrations and exhibits. A “Rockets and Payload Recovery Challenge” was conducted on day two using two-liter bottle water rockets. Each student made his or her own parachute and launched it as part of the program. To add interest and excitement, a tennis ball was set on top to the water rocket bottles. This “second stage” flew two to three times as high as the first stage bottle, and typically remained in the air more than six seconds. Experiments performed with these rockets included determining the best amount of water to put in the rocket, and the performance of different weight and diameter second stage balls.
The final day of the class featured a field trip to the NAWCWD Range Control Center and Armitage Airfield. At RCC the students visited the air traffic control center and the bays where range tests are controlled and monitored. VX-31 pilots met the students at the airfield, gave them a tour, and explained what the life of a pilot is like.
Most of the students attending science camp were about 10 years old.
“At this age, students have typically not decided on a career path, and our hope is that by exposing them to how fun STEM is, we can encourage their future learning and possibly career choices” said Susie Raglin, a division head in the NAWCWD Systems Engineering Department and volunteer with the China Lake Museum Foundation.
A second science camp will be held at China Lake later this summer.